MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia will not attend a United Nations climate summit later this month that is seen as pivotal to reducing emissions of planet-warming gasses, but he may deliver a speech by video link, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.
Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, did not explain the decision on the summit in Glasgow but emphasized that climate change remained high on Russia’s agenda. “The issues that will be discussed in Glasgow right now form one of the priorities of our foreign policy,” Mr. Peskov said.
Mr. Putin, speaking at an energy conference in Moscow last week, had said he was reluctant to attend because of the risk of spreading coronavirus. He said his entourage would include about a hundred people and the travel would pose risks. Mr. Putin, who has been vaccinated, had to isolate in September after exposure to the virus.
Russia is the world’s fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases but has been seen as dragging its feet on policies to curb pollution. It is also a major exporter of oil, coal and natural gas, the fossil fuels that are the main culprits in climate change. Mr. Putin has suggested some policies intended to slow climate change are in fact aimed at harming Russia’s energy exports.
The country has participated in past efforts to control emissions, most recently with a pledge in 2015 to cap climate-warming pollution at levels below those it emitted in 1990. But because of the industrial collapse that followed the end of the Soviet Union, Russia was already emitting less in 2015 than it had in 1990. The commitment did little to help lower global greenhouse gas pollution.
Last week, Mr. Putin announced a new plan for Russia to become carbon-neutral by 2060. The plan suggests Russia should be given more credit for carbon absorbed by the country’s vast forests in Siberia and that this absorption can be increased through new forest management practices, such as fighting wildfires more aggressively.
Chinese officials have not confirmed whether Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, will attend the event. But if he did appear, it would likely be remotely: Mr. Xi has not publicly left the country since Covid-19 spread from the Chinese city of Wuhan in January 2020.
Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate negotiator, told Reuters on Tuesday that global climate officials would have to wait for confirmation from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “and only after they make an announcement will we tell you.”
The Chinese government has otherwise publicly supported the COP26 effort and promoted some of its own climate goals, including plans to curb emissions and to stop building new coal-fueled projects abroad. In September, Han Zheng, a Chinese vice premier, held a virtual meeting with Alok Sharma, the British cabinet minister who is COP26’s president-designate, and said that the summit “will send a strong political signal,” according to an account on state media.